April 14, 2019
Oriental Theater, Denver, CO
Swervedriver is one of the most underrated bands of the 90’s and the most underrated shoegaze band I have come across. In large part, their lack of success came from a string of unfortunate events around the release of their most anticipated album “Ejector Seat Reservation” in 1995 that came out after their acclaimed “Mezcal Head” in 1993. Their record label at the time, A&M, cut the bands funding and told them they would not release “Ejector Seat Reservation” for another 18 months.
Subsequently, Swervedriver went over to the record label Creation for the release who barely promoted the album then cut them a week later.
Amongst the shoegaze genre, they are a little heavier more conventional than bands like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive and are many times closer to the harder rocking of Dinosaur Jr. or The Smashing Pumpkins. I think some bands have trouble finding their audience when they are in a sort of middle ground between two genres. That being said, along with Ride and My Bloody Valentine, they are one of my favorites in the shoegazing genre.
They opened for Failure at the Oriental Theatre another “forgotten” but somewhat recently rediscovered alt-rock band from the 90’s. I only stayed for Swervedriver’s set and really wish they had played a bit longer. About half their set is from their two most recent albums “I Wasn’t Born to Lose You” and “Future Ruins” that came out after about a 20-year hiatus. Both those albums are surprisingly fresh and it’s great to hear a band take such a long break and come back not missing a beat. Their newer material is as noisy and melodic as ever. They seemed as into playing their newer material as their older and if it was someone’s first exposure to the band, they probably could not tell the difference. Classically, you could not really understand Adam Franklins vocals but not in a bad way. As with many Shoegaze bands, the vocals are just another instrument amongst a wall of melodic noise.
For their older songs, they played one of my favorites “Last Train to Satansville” which in my mind is a classic angry and confused 90’s anthem. They closed with an extended noisy version of “Duel” which is the closest thing they ever had to a hit. Both of these songs got some airplay on MTV’s 120 minutes in the early 90’s back when MTV did not suck (and I highly recommend checking them both out). It was clear most of the crowd was there to see Failure, but I spoke with a couple people after their set who had never heard of Swervedriver but were very impressed. I hope they continue to tour and really do think they can establish themselves as one of the premier shoegaze bands even if the never got the love they deserved.
By Christopher Beliveau